Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Unimportance of Katie Couric

For those of you watching the Winter Olympics, I'm sure you have your own way of dealing with the fact that they compete while we sleep, and vice versa.  NBC, the broadcast network that has the rights this year, has cleverly arranged it so that the highest rated events (all of which involve figure skating) start at the weird local hour of 10:00 AM in Korea, so that they will start at 8:00 PM Eastern Time for the American audience, who pays the bills.

Other than that, however, the events are presented in a combination of live and on tape, with most of the live broadcasts being overnight.  So a lot of us, we assume, simply set our DVRs to record everything that says "Olympics" in the title, and fast forward through the biathlon and the cross-country skiing to get to what we really want to see.

That would be, of course, curling, in this case Mixed Doubles Curling, a very recent event in what has been often called, very unfairly, "shuffleboard on ice."

I needn't take time to explain curling, since you surely have seen it, if not actually watched it intently.  Round stones are slid down the ice to a series of circles, and ... well, maybe it is shuffleboard on ice.  Most of the countries' team coaches are Canadians, including the Team USA coach, which tells you everything you need to know about curling. 

We love watching it in this house, and quickly find ourselves using curling terms while watching, that we then set aside for four years.  "That's shot rock there!"  "They've got a shot for a double!"

So ... the USA mixed doubles team is a brother-sister combination from Wisconsin, Matt and Becca Hamilton.  They are "interesting" because they talk to each other like siblings would, as opposed to teammates, so there is that.  Matt has a mustache and often a baseball cap of some kind, and is stocky enough that if I say "beer-league softball", you'll get the idea.  And they're very good, enough to be the Team USA mixed doubles competitors. 

Plus, Matt Hamilton sounds exactly like the guy who played the big boss on the Christmas Vacation movie.  I can't be the only one who hears that.

Of course, this is 2018, so there has been a lot of coverage on social media, and the Hamilton siblings (or "HamFam", since we have to have that these days), being so often on TV in the early goings of these Games, are media darlings.  That's pretty cool, and certainly good for curling, if being good for curling is a good thing in general.  Being media darlings, they were the subject of a fair number of interviews from the USA-based media, particularly those from NBC. 

One of those interviews, which I did not actually see (I generally fast-forward past interviews and "up close and personal" feature pieces, same as commercials), was done with Katie Couric, who is a celebrity at NBC News.  In fairness, I don't know what she does there, because I don't watch (or trust) NBC News, but she has been around a long time, back from when no sentence invoking her name would be said without "perky" in there somewhere.

Now, of course, she is a long-time veteran of reading news.  What that makes her, of course, is up for debate, since NBC is not exactly known for journalistic integrity.  But she is at least famous.

At any rate, some time after she interviewed the Hamiltons, the Team USA siblings were competing in one of their many matches, which the best girl and I were watching.  Between shots, or maybe in a break between ends (think "innings"), the curling play-by-play folks threw it back to their NBC Olympics headquarters to kill a minute or two.  The host there -- and I can't recall who -- mentioned the interview that Katie Couric had with the Hamiltons.

Now at this point, the social media hype for them was pretty widespread.  So the host said, in so many words, that Miss Couric was really excited to talk to the Hamiltons, even more so than they seemingly were, to talk to her.  That was surprising, the host said, because they should have been enraptured at meeting The Katie Couric, Major Media Star.

I'm not kidding.  He actually said, and I'm sorry I don't recall the exact words, that they should have been really honored because this was, after all, Katie Couric.  I turned to my best girl and asked if she had heard the same tone that I had.  Yep, she said.  It was all about Katie Couric.  I could not believe that the people at NBC thought that Katie Couric was so important that Olympic athletes in the midst of their competition run should grovel at her presence.

So let me provide a message to NBC News.

Do you know what is important?  Let me try to explain.

- What happened is important.  Who reads the words is not.
- The scores and the action are important.  What network brought them to us is not.
- Matt and Becca Hamilton are important.  Katie Couric, whatever you may think, is not.

This is a lesson that will be hard for NBC, who pays Miss Couric boatloads of money to read the news, to have to learn.  If this had not happened, by a week after the Olympics surely I would have completely forgotten what network broadcast the Games.  But I will send this piece to them, in the hopes that at least someday they will get it.

Sure, they will.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

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